Want to be more Creative? Take a Walk!
I make no qualms about it, I want to be like Hemingway. Not in his self-destructive aggrandizing ways, but more like his lesser known writing habits.
Was he a flawed man? You bet.
Did he do shitty things? No doubt!
Yet, the thing that draws me to his works is his efficient prose and something not often thought about: his morning routine.
Do not seek to follow in the footsteps of the wise. Seek what they sought. — Matsuo Basho
No, I don’t want to copy him or write like him. I’m on my own path and I have my own stories to tell. I take the advice of Haiku Master Matso Basho, I’m seeking what Hemingway sought. I’m trying to understand what the Writing Masters learned and seek that wisdom for myself.
Why? Because for years I sought external validation from friends, workers, and ex-lovers. I realized that it was more harmful to get their praise when instead I should reflect inward instead and write the truth. Write what makes me want to sing and not stop.
The secret I learned from this inner reflection? It starts with waking up early and going for a walk.
The Early Bird Gets the Worm
I’m a morning person. I like to go to bed early and wake up early. Granted in my early 20’s I stayed up late but now I look forward to going to bed early because I know I will wake up and use that quiet time to reflect.
He went outside and moved!
Hemingway liked to get up early and write too. When he was in France he would take a notebook and go down to his local cafe to write. Other times he would lock himself up in his room with his typewriter and just write for hours.
Then something very important happened that many people overlook, or at least I think they do. When he was done writing for the day he got out and did some sort of activity. Sometimes he played tennis, other times he fished, and other times it was some form of exercise.
He decoupled his writing mind with some form of physical movement in the environment. He went outside and moved!
I remember reading that tidbit somewhere and didn’t give it much thought, but it stuck with me for years.
Movement, was the key.
2020’s Silver Lining
Oh 2020! You are a year to remember! You remind me of a wild lover that wrecked my bed and in the morning kicked me in the head1. I want to forget you but I know I won’t. You destroyed my the year and messed up my work.
Yet, there is a silver lining to all this. You made remote work a permanent way for people to earn a living. I am thankful that I am one of them, a new and fully remote worker.
Before Covid19 hit I was traveling a lot for work, so working remotely part-time made sense. I sure as hell wasn’t going to the office in the morning when my flight was landing at 1AM in Newark. So, I worked from home unless I was traveling. I’d say I was 50–60% of my time on the road over the past few years.
Then Covid19 hit and travel was shutdown across the board. My entire company went remote and closed all the offices until further notice. My entire routine was thrown out the window!
I was mad! How did we as a country let it come to this? Wait, don’t tell me. I know.
Everything changed for me, some for worse but a lot for better.
I wrote with abandon, I wrote for joy
I had stopped writing when I was traveling. I just didn’t feel like it. My creativity was in a funk and the joy I felt writing was eluding me. Plus, reading the news everyday was pure misery. I didn’t write anything for months and never felt inspired or creative enough to pen something new.
This continued on all through March and April until one beautiful morning. I woke up, looked outside and decided to walk around my neighborhood.
I did it the next day and then everyday for a week. Before I knew it one week became two and two weeks become months. I just got up early and started walking around and loving it. I listened to the birds, watched leaves unfurl, felt cool morning mist on my skin. It was a feast for the senses!
…you have to sit you ass in a chair and write
Then I noticed something strange, all that sensory stimulation made me want to write! I started to feel creative again! It was if a huge gush of writing energy was unleashed and I just put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) and wrote. I wrote with abandon, I wrote for joy. I felt reborn. I had formed a new routine.
Now my routine is this: I wake at 5AM, sometimes at 4AM, make a cup of coffee, read the news on my laptop for a few minutes, and then start writing. Then I write till about 1 hour before I start work.
This last hour before work is the crucial step to keeping my writing flow going. I use it to recharge myself and my creativity.
A few years ago I read “Ernest Hemingway on Writing” by Larry Phillips. In the book is bits and missives on Hemingway’s writing, old letters, and advice on writing. Hemingway struggled expressing what his writing routine was about but the essential message I gleaned from it was this:
If you want be a writer, you have to sit your ass in a chair and write.
Too often we do just that. Sit our ass in a chair and squeeze out every ounce of creativity from our soul. Then we feel empty and need to recharge. This is where the destructive habits start to form. We might overeat, indulge in alcohol or other substances too much, and never recharge our creative reservoir.
The trick is movement. Get up, write, and move. Play pickle ball, tennis, run, walk! Something. Raise your heart rate and be inspired.
You’ll thank for it later.
- Maggie May by Rod Stewart ↩︎